by Lia Chang,
AsAmNews Arts & Entertainment Reporter
Fans of Wong Fu Productions flocked to the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria Saturday night to celebrate the New York premiere of Everything Before Us. Wong Fu Productions’ first feature was screened as the closing presentation of the 38th Asian American International Film Festival. The cast includes Aaron Yoo, Ki Hong Lee, Randall Park, Brandon Soo Hoo, Brittany Ishibashi and Victoria Park.
My Hide and Seek producing partner Garth Kravits, with whom I share my Top Ten Winning Film Award from the Film Lab’s 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking competition, was periscoping live for AsAmNews.com while I photographed the festivities.
The 2015 AAIFF Awards were presented prior to the screening (see the full list below).
Click below for highlights of the night.
After the screening, directors Wesley Chan, Philip Wang and Chris Dinh were joined by lead actor Aaron Yoo on stage for an engaging Q & A.
Founded by Wesley Chan, Ted Fu, and Philip Wang, Wong Fu Productions is primarily known for their YouTube channel, which has grown to over 2 million subscribers and over 300 million views in the span of 10 years.
Their work has been critically recognized and praised by organizations such as CNN, NPR, the 2008 Cannes and 2011 Sundance Film Festivals, and even the White House.
While Wesley, Ted, and Philip initially met as friends who simply enjoyed making videos, they are recognized as pioneers for a new generation of content creators, as well as a voice for the under represented Asian American Community. They create short films, sketches, music videos and vlogs for their fanbase of supporters from around the world.
After 10 days of Asian and Asian American films, conversations and events, AAIFF 2015 dims the lights to yet another successful year. As the nation’s first and longest running Asian American film festival, AAIFF 2015 welcomed over 150 filmmakers and guests and showcased over 50 films from 9 different countries. With 2 World Premieres, including 15 New York Premieres, AAIFF 2015 featured films from renowned filmmakers such as Oscar Winner Ruby Yang, Sundance Winner and Oscar Nominee Arthur Dong, as well as Centerpiece Presentation Seoul Searching and the Closing Night Presentation of Wong Fu’s first feature film, Everything Before Us. AAIFF 2015 drew close to 8,000 audience members.
The reception which followed the Q&A featured Bubble Tea, Bruce Cost Ginger Ale, tastings of Knob Creek Rye, Maker’s Mark 46, and Basil Hayden, provided by Beam Suntory, and tasty bites from Flo Lounge and BentOn.
Congrats to the 2015 AAIFF Award winners.
Emerging Director of Narrative Feature
LA SALADA, dir. Juan Martin Hsu
Jury Statement: “The crack of golf drives is an unlikely proxy for the tick of the clock, but this is an unusual movie that sees and hears attentively and inventively. From the first images that swap foreground and background, the film announces its interests in investigating the quieter elements in a scene (and a life) that might normally be missed. The characters in the film are diverse, but they are united by a balanced, sympathetic eye content to observe their lives without judgment. Loneliness, textured space, layered sounds, relief, movement & stillness, they rotate in and out of prominence in a unique rhythm. This is textbook neo-classicism, using the old lessons of aesthetic harmony alongside a child-like curiosity and joy in discovery of the new”.
–Patrick Wang (Juror)
A GIRL AT MY DOOR, dir. July Jung
Jury Statement: “True to Korean cinema, A Girl At My Door is a heated portrayal of domestic abuse, and I’m very taken by this story’s female heroes set against the backdrop of South Korean rural life. It’s dramatic, but not melodramatic. I admire the filmmaker’s quest in tackling a variety of issues, including migration, abuse, and homosexuality. Film is such a powerful medium, and this team made an excellent attempt to bringing these issues to light”.
Emerging Director of Documentary Feature
LIVE FROM UB, dir. Lauren Knapp
LIVE FROM UB is the result of ten months of immersion in Mongolia’s small but vibrant music scene, learning Mongolian, attending concerts, and filming a plethora of interviews with Mongolia’s top performers.
Jury Statement: “I enjoyed this refreshing view of modern “Mongolia” alongside another favorite Summer Pasture and appreciate how it showcases a living culture surviving and thriving — beyond sweeping (Western-made) epics frozen in the “Golden Horde” past”. – Theresa Navarro (Juror)
Jury Statement: “Thoroughly enjoyable and informative, with some excellent integration of character footage and archival material”.
–John Woo (Juror)
Excellence in Short Filmmaking
THE SURRENDER, dir. Steve Maing
In August 2010, Stephen Kim, a highly-regarded State Department intelligence analyst, was indicted under the Espionage Act for jeopardizing national security by allegedly divulging classified information to a reporter. Despite numerous officials in the State Department describing Kim’s disclosure as nothing extraordinary, he faced 10 to 15 years in prison if convicted at trial.
The Surrender intimately documents Stephen Kim’s struggle to understand the events leading up to his prosecution as well as his last free days before prison.
Jury Statement: “Important and powerful documentary. Excellent on so many levels. The film successfully humanizes Stephen, and shows how his life was ruined by the espionage charges”.
Screenplay Competition Winner
EAST OF WESTERN, by Timothy Drain
The screenplay is a story of Alex, a criminal enforcer in LA’s Korea Town neighborhood. As a Hispanic outsider within the Korean mob, he’s earned his keep through service to the mob boss, Hong. Starting as a young child who fetched his cigarettes, Alex grew into a man Hong trusts with his most important criminal tasks. Growing up alongside him are Hong’s two children: Jihyeok, the bright but soft-natured son; and Su-bin the rebellious older sister. After a sudden stroke puts Hong into a coma, Alex must defend his boss’ position and this surrogate family from dangerous challengers to the throne.
For Youth By Youth One to Watch Award
IF THERE IS A REASON TO STUDY, dir. Adler Yang
For Youth By Youth program celebrates works by media makers of Asian descent under the age of 21, articulating their perceptions of life and the world in the most original voice. If There is a Reason to Study is directed by a then 14 year-old student Alder Yang who has spent 6 years to document a test-driven education’s impact on students. In addition to filmmaking, Alder strives to make a difference in education by means such as writing, journalism, workshop design and facilitation, and entrepreneurship. We are fascinated by his one-man crusade and selected the film for its subject matter as well as the young director’s rarely seen courage and perseverance.
Audience Award (Documentary Feature)
LIVE FROM UB, dir. Lauren Knapp
Audience Award (Narrative Feature)
FACTORY BOSS (by Wei Zhang)
After successfully running a toy factory in Shenzhen for 20 years, Lin Dalin has to face the economic squeeze and competition from cheaper Southeast Asian countries. Under intense pressure from all sides, Lin struggles to hold his business together and fulfill the big order.
Members support Asian CineVision’s year round programming, including AAIFF. They receive fantastic benefits including discounts on AAIFF tickets, invitations to events throughout the year, and complimentary AAIFF tickets. For more information on membership and upcoming AAIFF events visit asiancinevision.org.
The Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) is a presentation of Asian CineVision. The festival is a celebration of inspiring Asian and Asian American works in film and video from innovative artists around the world.
About Asian CineVision:
Asian CineVision (ACV) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit media arts organization devoted to the development, exhibition, promotion, and preservation of Asian and Asian American film and video.
Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She has guest starred on “One Life to Live,” “As the World Turns,” and “New York Undercover.” She is profiled in Jade Magazine.